What Is an API-First CMS?

This article shines a light on API-first CMS, how enterprises need it, and how you can get started with one.

What Is an API-First CMS?

Gisele Blair 02.03.2022

In the past, enterprises faced the challenge of modifying changes and publishing content separations across several digital touchpoints that span the web, mobile, and social media platforms. With an API-first CMS, these companies can gain greater flexibility by delivering content across multiple channels at once and facilitating seamless interaction with third-party services.That’s because APIs are the connection bridges of a tech ecosystem. 

Several services interact and connect through APIs to extend or improve their product functionalities. These APIs play a pivotal role in transferring data across third-party applications. Content management systems are no different. 

To better appreciate the significance of APIs in modern app development, 67% of respondents (ranking it 5 and above out of 10) in the 2021 Postman State of API report indicate that their company embraces an API-first approach. Moreover, respondents with a higher API-first rating(with rankings of 9 or 10) build faster APIs, deploy more often, experience fewer failures, and react faster to failures.

This article shines a light on API-first CMS, how enterprises need it, and how you can get started with one.

What Is an API-first CMS?

An API-first CMS decouples an application’s frontend presentation layer from its backend by enabling content delivery and interactions with other services through APIs. This approach is suitable for marketers and developers to collaborate more effectively and manage content across various touchpoints. 

Traditional CMSs such as WordPress and Drupal tightly couple the backend containing content, files, and folders with the frontend presentation layer. Although these platforms can push content for laptops, mobile devices, and tablets, they limit enterprise flexibility and scalability in meeting content demands across several interfaces.

With an API-first CMS, enterprises can publish content to any channel—web, mobile, IoT-powered devices, AR/VR, smart vehicles, digital assistants, and more. 

API-first CMS vs. API-only CMS

Is an API-first CMS the same as an API-only CMS? Although there’s a tendency to regard both as the same, the simple answer is they are not. However, they do have distinct similarities. 

Put simply, an API-only CMS is a pure headless CMS. It doesn’t have an integrated frontend that will determine how the content will appear to end-users. Rather, frontend developers have the freedom to build any kind of interface across their channels and only need to use an API to call and serve the content. 

This kind of CMS is developer-focused, with marketers having little control over how the content is viewed. As a result, marketers may need more coding skills to manage content effectively.

On the other hand, an API-first CMS is a hybrid decoupled CMS that seamlessly performs the role of both a traditional CMS and a headless CMS. It gives you the flexibility needed to consistently deliver content to any touchpoint while having the infrastructure to help you quickly set up and manage your frontend and presentation pages. 

It’s safe to say that an API-first CMS is the best of both worlds for marketers and developers. It enables developers to distribute content across multiple channels via an API. Marketing teams also get some of the familiar interfaces and features they are accustomed to from traditional CMSs for delivering content to the web.

Why API-First CMS Beats All-In-One Suite Platforms

While suite solutions like Oracle and IBM offer an all-in-one set of services that you can leverage, an API-first CMS enables seamless integration with best-of-breed services and provides the platform to build your tech ecosystem. 

API-first CMSs are composable and modular. Rather than having everything in one large, complicated platform with features that vary in performance, you can leverage an API to integrate or remove services as it suits your enterprise needs.  

It's always a concern with monolithic suites that you may not be getting the best from some of the features. You don’t have the flexibility to connect best-of-breed services, therefore limiting your potential to compete with your competitors. An API-first CMS is a MACH-aligned architecture developed to meet present and future demands.

These monolithic suites require more training or collaboration with external agencies or implementation partners. That is due to its complex architecture and an extensive list of features. For API-first CMSs, on the other hand, marketers, and developers can leverage a solution that is flexible and simple to use. 

Read more: Consideration When Migrating Out of Legacy Cloud Suites

Why Enterprises Need to Adopt An API-First CMS

Omnichannel Content Delivery

The IoT era has finally arrived. Several consumers have taken to IoT-powered devices such as voice assistants, smart vehicles, smartwatches, and so on. An estimated forecast on Statista suggests that there will be 8.4 billion digital vice assistants in use by 2024. Therefore, enterprises must meet these innovative demands or risk being left behind.

Traditional CMS platforms are unable to provide these kinds of experiences, whereas API-first CMS platforms can. For those devices, enterprises can just access their APIs or develop their own. Regardless of the device, an API-first CMS can serve content to it.

Build a Best of Breed DXP and MarTech Stack

By leveraging APIs, enterprises can free themselves from vendor constraints. They can create their digital experience platform (DXP) by integrating best-of-breed services and technologies that may include a CRM, eCommerce, analytics, personalization engine, DAM, CDP, and more. And if no longer needed, they can easily remove them from the enterprise tech stack. 

Seamless Content Reuse and Editing

Having all the content stored centrally enables enterprises to make it accessible across multiple channels. Essentially, content creators can write once and deliver anywhere. That helps to reduce the time spent on content creation and eliminates the need to create it twice. On top of that, content authors can make changes to the content without involving developers, saving the needless back-and-forth common with a traditional CMS.

Enhances Developer Productivity and Innovation

The popularity of traditional CMS grew at a time when there was little variety of programming languages available, and an all-in-one solution trumped complicated DIY solutions. But today a single suite of tools acts as a shackle preventing businesses from adapting their content across platforms and devices. 

By replacing your traditional CMS with an API-first CMS, you are maximizing your resources and improving your team's creativity. They can build frontend experiences with any framework of their choosing and facilitate increased innovation. 

Reduces Over-reliance on IT Teams and Enables Faster Time to Market

With an API-first CMS, marketers can easily leverage the platform to create landing pages, microsites, and marketing campaigns. This is an advantage that API-first CMSs provide over purely headless CMS that rely heavily on developers to make changes to any frontend layout and ultimately create more work for them.

With marketers having this option with an API-first CMS, enterprises can ensure a faster time to market and boost their competitive advantage.

Future-proof Strategy for Your Business

Technology will continually evolve, and it’s crucial to be prepared to meet these changes. A business can evolve and adapt its strategy without friction if it takes a MACH architecture approach. With MACH, enterprises can take advantage of microservice-based, API-first, cloud-native, and headless platforms to ensure they are on hand to meet any future challenge.

Read more: Why are enterprises moving to cloud-based CMS?

Facilitates Engaging Customer Experience

With an API-first content strategy, developers can create enthralling and immersive digital experiences across all your channels leveraging the best available framework. To facilitate a stronger digital presence, they can integrate with other platforms to add more features and capabilities for your end-users. 

The integrations and flexibility give your brand greater personalization and uniqueness in a highly diverse environment.

Zesty.io: The Enterprise-ready API-first CMS

Building a modern web experience requires assembling different components. APIs serve as the connecting ports of these components. With APIs, you can extend the capabilities of your application, stacking up solutions and services as it suits your needs. It’s the same with an API-first CMS. 

With the rising demand for personalized, contextual, and engaging digital experiences, enterprises need an API-first CMS. With it, they can:

  • Build their digital experience platform (DXP)

  • Leverage best of breed technologies

  • Plug and remove services as you wish

  • Adapt to any new demands

  • Deliver omnichannel marketing across all touchpoints

  • Build on MACH architecture to deliver composable, modular ecosystem

  • Future-proof your whole tech stack

  • Secure your infrastructure

  • And so much more

Zesty.io provides you with a fully-featured enterprise-ready API-first CMS to deliver enthralling digital experiences across all your channels. That means you have the agility and control to adapt to any modern demands by connecting via APIs to best-of-breed services and functionalities. 


Learn more about how organizations can leverage an API-first CMS to develop a best-of-breed DXP solution with Zesty.io.

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Gisele Blair photo

Gisele Blair

Director of Customer Success, Zesty.io

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.... Learn More

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